Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me: Who’s Watching Over Us?

Jaime Kleiman wants more from "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me," but the subject matter militates against dramatic relief. The show runs through March 25.


When a character onstage utters that deadly phrase, “I’m so bored!”, guess what? The audience probably is, too. The Burning House Group’s two-and-a-half hour production of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me is no exception. Playwright Frank McGuinness has done a fine job of writing a play about three characters being held hostage that is remarkably unaffecting.

The joke goes like this: three men walk into Beirut—an American doctor, an Irish journalist, and a British professor of English literature—and end up chained to the wall in a windowless cell by Lebanese terrorists. More of a character study than anything else, McGuinness’s efforts to unite these vastly different men under extreme circumstances feels contrived.

Zach Curtis as Michael, the upper-crust Brit with a penchant for tea parties, pulls up little depth from the caricature with which the playwright has supplied him. As Adam, David Allen Baker, Jr., fares a little better. The only books their captors have supplied them with are the Koran and the Bible, and Adam studies them to pass the time. The prisoners maintain hope and sanity by creating imaginary worlds where humorous letters are written to distant friends, martinis are poured in copious amounts, and movies are remembered (and subverted) with fervent glee.

The real reason to see this show, though, is to watch Randal Berger as Edward. Berger, a wiry man who looks emaciated and desperate, expertly juxtaposes Edward’s underlying vulnerability with outward rage. The most acerbic character in the play, Edward is also the most sympathetic. When his veneer finally snaps, he is rewarded with freedom instead of death, for reasons just as capricious as his capture.

Adam, having disappeared by the start if the second act, is presumed dead. Set designer Heidi Hunter Batz adds a poignant touch by outlining in dust the space where Adam’s floor mat had been. Its absence resembles a coffin, over which Michael and Edward eulogize their friend. It’s one of the few theatrical moments in an otherwise monotonous play.

The plot, by the way, is based on the real-life story of an Irish professor named Brian Keenan, who was kidnapped by an Islamic Jihadist group in 1986 and lived in a cell with a British journalist, John McCarthy. Director Matt Guidry’s devotion to the grim realism of those events may help the actors—these scenes would be excellent exercises for acting students—but it’s faulty directing. He paces every over-long scene as he imagines the men’s days actually are: lachrymose, achingly slow, and strangely apologetic.

McGuinness offers a handful of ideas that are meant to be seditious: Arab countries are dangerous; all Arabs resent Westerners; victims of brutality, no matter their differences, will band together for survival if they have to; etc. We citizens of the free world have ample reason to be terrified, with or without shackles. The future that the United States presently courts is more foreboding than Adam, Michael, or Edward’s fates combined. Theirs is already sealed and ours is not. The real question then is: Who’s watching over us?

Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me runs March 8-25. Minneapolis Theater Garage, 711 W. Franklin Ave. Tickets: 612-623-9396. www.burninghou